Comment

Last year the cost of the project was in the $22M range, now I hear it is + $30M. What happened to $22M?

Response

The detailed explanation was laid out in a technical memorandum issued and presented to the Board in May of this year. In brief:

  1. After structural engineering review, it is not feasible to reuse the existing Headworks Building in the Upgrade and Expansion project. A new Headworks Building must be constructed. Construction of a new Headworks facility will enable the District to utilize “two-stage” screening: 6 mm openings for coarse materials (e.g., non-flushable wipes, plastics, other debris) and 2 mm openings to capture fibrous materials to prevent “re-weaving” of fibers in the treatment plant and damage to downstream equipment.

  2. The District recently acquired an additional approximately 200 feet of land to the west of the existing site. As long as a new Headworks Building must be constructed, it makes sense to locate it as close to the influent pipeline and manhole as possible, to free up as much of the existing site as possible for future utilization (future expansions, and maximization of treatment capacity on the existing site). With this change, it becomes possible to build new treatment process basins rather than retrofit the existing Sequence Batch Reactors (SBRs). The SBR Basins will be re-tasked for Aerobic Digestion and Influent Peak Flow Equalization.

  3. Previously, the District was going to construct a $22M Upgrade and Expansion, followed in 5 to 10 years by an second, approximately $7M Solids Processing Expansion and Upgrade. If the solids processing project is included in the Phase I Expansion and Upgrade, the combined cost is actually slightly less than if the two projects are completed separately. Considering the substantial administrative, permitting, funding and contracting efforts associated with these large public works projects, it makes more sense to complete them in one project rather than two.

  4. The cost of construction in Big Sky continues to escalate at a higher rate than construction in other markets around the country. The difficulty in bringing in large quantities of concrete up from the Gallatin Valley, and the competition for labor and high cost of worker housing all contribute to high costs to build in Big Sky.

Comment

With the stated uncertainty of future DEQ decisions related to snowmaking and possible river discharges, along with concerns about the proliferation of private systems, it seems premature to me to proceed down the path that the study recommends. I believe that an independent third party review of the study findings, should be conducted to address not only my concerns, but those of other stakeholders. This independent review should address value engineering of the current proposed Phase 1 and Phase 2 project, along with addressing the regional treatment plant idea. I believe that a short RFP process would find strong interest from many qualified engineering firms.

Response

Yes, these values are placeholders for budgetary purposes. Final fees for any engineering are negotiated by the District on a case-by-case basis, as they were for the work involved in completing the Draft Report.

Comment

It appears to me that the limited size of the existing treatment plant site is being used to drive to the selection of the treatment process. I would like to see the possibility of building a new plant on a new location that would allow for future expansion to a regional treatment concept. I believe that Packy Cronin actually addressed that idea during the meeting when he talked about the gravel pit property along Hwy. 191. A new plant with room for regional expansion could use a less expensive process than the proposed MBR, on a larger footprint. A more conventional activated sludge process with tertiary treatment or microfiltration could be designed in lieu of the MBR system. The study identifies the MBR equipment cost at $7,182 million, with annual cost of membrane replacement at $142,700 and annual chemical costs at $224,600. This process results in the highest annual OM+R cost, with the only advantage that I can find being a smaller plant footprint. When Mr. Buecker addressed a more conventional system on the existing site in his presentation, he cited a cost of $8 million for two 60 ft. Diameter clarifiers and associated pumping and reactor volumes. I believe this estimate to be too high.

Response

See Response to Comment 63. Relocating a wastewater treatment plant is typically extremely expensive and takes several years to implement. The District WRF needs expansion and upgrades to be completed within the next three years. The utilization of IFAS, with secondary clarifiers, a RAS and WAS pump station, and associated site access and yard piping modifications is estimated at $8M based on engineer’s experience with similar projects, including the same contingencies, engineering/administration, and contractor markups as utilized in the MBR cost estimate spreadsheet (i.e., an apples to apples comparison). This cost is before filtration is addressed, which would require a new building or expansion of the existing filter building.

Comment

I remain concerned about the estimated cost of this project and the future direction that will be set if the District proceeds down the proposed path. The Phase 1 project will lock the district into an extremely expensive process that will not provide for opportunities to expand or alter the treatment process in the future. At $21.7 million. Phase 1 is not affordable for the size of the District. In my opinion, a better approach is to provide for a more conventional and modest increase in the capacity of the existing plant at this time, with a long term goal of working to expand the boundaries of the district into a “Regional Treatment System”. I realize that the District does not currently have jurisdiction to expand its boundaries, but this is the direction that I believe should be taken. In my experience, the economies of scale that could be achieved by including; the Yellowstone Club, Spanish Peaks, Moonlight Basin, the Canyon area, and eventually the multiple septic systems in the region, into a centralized collection and treatment system makes the most sense.

Response

Phase I appears to be an affordable project based on preliminary collaboration with the District, utilizing some existing District reserves, and receipt of a contribution from the Resort Tax Board. Doing a smaller “modest” project at the existing site would not be cost-effective, as the filtration facility is already at capacity and any small project at the secondary treatment site will require extensive site modifications and yard piping modifications. Planning, engineering and administering a Regional Treatment System will require several years and millions of additional monies for land acquisition, sewer realignment, right-of-ways, etc. The Yellowstone Club and Moonlight Basin have a new treatment plant and one under construction, respectively, so regionalization with those entities is too late.

Comment

I noticed that the cost estimates for the various treatment processes all include line items for Engineering, Legal and Administration equal to 15% of construction costs, and Construction Administration equal to 12.5% of construction costs. I don’t know if AE2S is using these estimates as simply “place holders”, or if these figures are intended to be included in the final negotiated design contracts. In any case, I would recommend that the BSWSD negotiate the design and CA fees to a level that is more reflective of reasonable industry rates, or enter into a different method of payment such as the hourly rate method with a “not to exceed” total fee. When it comes time to finalize the design and CA contracts, a detailed breakdown of tasks, with associated estimated hours needed by the various disciplines to complete each task, would be a normal request for the Engineer to furnish, and then be used by the Board for negotiations.

Response

Yes, these values are placeholders for budgetary purposes. Final fees for any engineering are negotiated by the District on a case-by-case basis, as they were for the work involved in completing the Draft Report.

Comment

The Indirect Subsurface Discharge method, using either Rapid Infiltration basins or multiple drain fields similar to the Firelight Meadows system should be investigated in further depth. The ability to discharge continuously year round, and also with less stringent nutrient limits could provide a reliable and flexible alternative to irrigation or direct discharge. Is there a potential to locate additional subsurface discharge facilities adjacent to the Yellowstone Club or Spanish Peaks reservoirs?

Response

Agreed. Opportunities for subsurface discharge will continue to be explored. Pumping effluent all the way to the Yellowstone Club or Spanish Peaks reservoirs may not be cost-effective, but developing additional subsurface discharge at lower elevations will be kept in consideration.

Comment

the investigation of viable treatment processes should be expanded to include an evaluation of the Integrated Fixed-Film Activated Sludge (IFAS) Process, including final filtration to produce a Class A-1 effluent. I believe that the IFAS process may result in less expensive initial construction costs and lower annual O&M costs, while also providing more flexible and simplified operations. The IFAS process utilizes a treatment train that is similar to the MBR including; screening, grit removal, anaerobic, anoxic and aerobic stages. Differences would include the need for a final clarifier, and a non-biological filter system. Many IFAS systems are currently producing high quality effluents in cold climates, and it should be a fairly simple process to evaluate initial construction and operating costs.

Response

IFAS was not included in the original scope. AE2S did not encourage consideration of IFAS as our experience with IFAS, and knowing the site area constraints and treatment performance goals, IFAS would not be competitive.

Comment

Not knowing what the current physical condition of the existing plant is, I wonder if it is necessary to abandon the current system for a completely new plant. If the existing system is providing effective treatment, could it be maintained to fulfill the needs for irrigation and possible future snowmaking, depending on the permit requirements. If discharge to the Gallatin is desired at some point in the future, will it be necessary to treat all of the effluent to the higher limits, or just that portion that will be discharged. If this is the case, it may be prudent to investigate a tertiary treatment process that takes a portion of the current effluent volume and further treats it for discharge. Could the existing ponds be used to isolate just that volume that is intended for discharge?

Response

See Response to Comment 57. Also, any reuse water must be filtered. Costs for expansion using the District’s existing treatment processes has been provided and will be included in the Final Report. However, the effluent from that process would not comply with any effluent reuse requiring Class A-1 effluent (e.g., subsurface discharge).

Comment

I would place the MBR process in the category of a system that can produce very high quality effluent, but is very expensive from an initial cost standpoint, has high O&M costs, and is very operator sensitive. If this system is a serious option, the staff who will run the plant should be allowed to visit other installations to ask the operators of those facilities what are the pros and cons of the system. A clear understanding of the annual cost associated with this process is absolutely necessary.

Response

Preliminary level OM&R estimates for MBR were included in the Report. BSCWSD’s GM operates an MBR facility in River Rock. In addition, District staff has already toured Butte’s water (ceramic membranes) and wastewater (MBR) plants, as well as River Rock.

Comment

Does it make sense to proceed on a path that treats the entire wastewater stream to a level that may be required for discharge to the Gallatin? If a majority of the volume of wastewater is intended to be used for golf course or other irrigation purposes, why would the district go to the expense of treating to further reduce the nutrients that are allowed for irrigation?

Response

Advanced treatment final design is several years out. At that time, a decision will be made as whether to treat all flows through Advanced Treatment or only those flows going to subsurface, or snowmaking, or direct discharge, or some combination of those. The issue with this is that “fit for use” distribution could require multiple distribution pipelines.